The Prime Minister chaired a further COBR meeting on Ebola this afternoon (Thursday 16 October). The attendees included the Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary, Health Secretary, Transport Secretary, International Development Secretary and Armed Forces Minister.
The meeting covered the situation on the ground, the UK response and domestic preparedness for potential cases of ebola. The advice from the Chief Medical Officer is that the risk to the UK from the disease remained low.
The International Development Secretary updated the meeting on the UK aid response and how the UK is leading the international response in Sierra Leone. The package is focussed on improving facilities, training staff and supporting the Sierra Leone government. This included the building of 6 new Ebola Treatment Facilities, local community care units and specific training for health workers, all of which remain on track.
The Armed Forces Minister set out that the military deployment continued to move forward with speed. RFA ARGUS would depart Falmouth tomorrow, taking 3 Merlin helicopters, and would stop in Gibraltar to collect 39 DfID vehicles. It is expected to arrive off of Freetown at the end of the month. Today, just over 100 members of 22 Field Hospital had deployed to commence establishing an Ebola Viral Disease Treatment Unit in Kerrytown. A number of engineers on the same flight will commence development of the Ebola Training Academy, with the first course delivered by the end of October.
There was a discussion over the need for the international community to do much more to support the fight against the disease in the region. This included greater co-ordination of the international effort, an increase in the amount of spending and more support for international workers who were, or who were considering, working in the region. The Prime Minister set out that he wanted to make progress on these issues at the European Council next week.
There was a detailed update about plans for protecting the UK against Ebola. The Health Secretary set out that screening was up and running across all Heathrow terminals and would be in place at Gatwick and St Pancras during the next week. There was a discussion regarding screening across Europe and the Prime Minister made clear other countries needed to do more and introduce their own checks if we are to strengthen protection across the board.
The Health Secretary set out that the national exercise to test UK preparedness had gone well. The system had responded well to two separate test incidents taking place at the same time. Contingency planning would continue and further advice is now being distributed to GP surgeries and other NHS institutions to ensure staff were fully aware on what to do if they suspected a patient may have Ebola.